We're into August, which can be a dazzling month in the Northwest, with many things to enjoy and be thankful for: brilliant sunsets, fresh air, sparkling forests and water, music and arts festivals in places large and small, and, not least, an economy that is comparatively stronger than the rest of the country's.
How about sitting in the early evening, at an outdoor table at Ray's Boathouse, enjoying good company, Northwest seafood and wine, and watching boats incoming to the Ballard Locks?
But concerns and irritations conspire to break the spell.Seafair
Hey, the parade is OK. But Seattle is a mature city now. What is with those supposely funny Seafair pirates? And the Blue Angel flyovers and the Lake Washington hydro races? Don't they belong in some 1950s trivia museum?
Do you ever wonder how much fuel, and millions of public dollars, the Blue Angels are consuming as they make noise and tie-up traffic over the Interstate 90 bridge? The Blue Angels and their Air Force counterparts were started during the Cold War period to help generate public support and further tax dollars for the Pentagon budget.
Why are other places not ga-ga about the hydros? Is it because they recognize the damage they are doing to their racing venues (in this case, Lake Washington) and the fact that crowd interest exists in part because of the possibity of a spectacular crash and/or fatality? A bit like the Indianapolis 500, where huge crowds watch circling racing cars in expectation of witnessing similar disaster and death. Maybe the hydro races are worth it because of the joy they bring to drunken boaters jamming Lake Washington for the event, distracting the Coast Guard from its homeland-security duties elsewhere.The Mariners
At the western end of I-90, our Mariners will be playing the Baltimore Orioles but continuing their competition with the Washington Nationals for the major leagues' worst 2008 record, thus bringing the winner (or, if you prefer, the loser) the right to first pick in next year's amateur baseball draft.
The Mariners and Safeco Field should be a local treasure. But successive years of mismanagement, capped by this disastrous season, have broken the spirit of fans who come to Safeco to watch baseball rather than to enjoy the Mariner Moose and the "experience." The team had an opportunity this past week to bring some hope by dealing expensive veteran players, most notably pitcher Jarod Washburn and outfielder Raul Ibanez, to pennant contenders in exchange for younger talent. It had to be done by a July 31 deadline for such deals. After lots of brave talk by CEO Howard Lincoln about putting "everything on the table" to improve the team, his interim general manager, Lee Pelakoudas, could not execute the no-brainer trades which would have offered hope. ESPN baseball guru Peter Gammons, after the July 31 deadline passed, characterized the Mariners as the biggest losers of a day which saw other teams swap some big-name players.
True regional baseball fans would do best for the remainder of this season to attend Pacific Coast League, Northwest League, and regional collegiate league games and send Mariners management a badly needed message: Get professional or we'll stop paying top dollar for your tickets, concessions, and parking. Management already has gotten one supply-demand message in that direction. KOMO-AM (1000) will not be broadcasting Mariners game next year; KIRO-AM (710) has purchased those radio rights at half the price KOMO was paying.Dismal government and politics
Democrats in the Legislature began the weekend period by mounting strong defenses of Gov. Chris Gregoire's indefensible giveaway of gaming rights to Native American tribes without requiring that a percentage of the resultant revenue be paid to the state. Every other state with tribal gaming has such a requirement. The tribes, in their gratitude, passed big political money to the state Democratic party which, in turn, passed most of it to Gregoire's campaign. An old and tawdry story one might have more greatly expected in Huey Long's Bayou Country or 1960s Chicago precincts rather than in our nominal clean-politics oasis.
There is a sound rule in politics: When you've really blown it, and have no reasonable excuse for a bad policy or political action, it is best to shut up and let the matter rest. Instead, Democrats and Gregoire have chosen to bring the matter to even higher visibility — thus making it an easier target for Republicans and Gregoire's Republican opponent, former state Sen. Dino Rossi.
There are some big issues that Gregoire and Rossi should be debating. These include the condition of the state's finances, transportation, the tax system, education, environmental priorites, and social service needs. We'll likely have to wait for fall televised debates to bring us any real substantive discussion of those issues.
Meantime, Mayor Greg Nickels, the Seattle City Council, Sound Transit —little more to be said. King County Executive Ron Sims and City Council member Nick Licata do, however, deserve commendation for their consistent recent opposition to costly and sometimes-destructive initiatives by their local and regional governmental colleagues.
Enough of this. I forgot. Everything really is terrific here, without exception. Best to go with the flow, ask no questions, leave it to others, pay taxes, and enjoy the natural surroundings. This place is so great it is hard to spoil.